In July, Wichita Falls Assistant City Manager Jim Dockery told the city council that a 53 percent water rate increase would be necessary to meet the water and sewer system debt and operational obligations.  On Tuesday, the council voted to grant the increase.  Part of the issue is language in the $1.4 million water reuse bond that forces the city to pay off the debt with only water rate revenue.  Those revenues have fallen, mainly because of the forced conservation efforts.

These conservation efforts, that have so far spared us from completely draining our lakes, have left revenues down-way down-by as much as 45 percent.  According to the city mangers office, a homeowner paying $60 in July will be paying $74 in September.  City Manager Darron Leiker issued a statement on the situation in July.  Here's an excerpt from that statement:

We must still maintain and pay for a large water treatment and delivery system,
whether we sell one drop of water or not. We have held off increasing water rates during this drought as long as possible (to account for reduced consumption), but we cannot wait any longer because all of our Water System Reserve Funds are depleted. We have had to use these reserves…during the last year to pay for normal operating costs of the water and sewer systems. We have also deferred over $3 million of normal routine water and sewer line replacement projects…and we still have a backlog of $65 million in water lines and $45 million worth of sewer lines that have been identified as needing replacement.

Bottom line is this: The city cannot use any other funds to pay for water and sewer operations; the bond obligations must be met with only revenue; you must still continue to conserve AND, if the drought worsens, even more restrictions could come into play, such as car wash’s being forced to either close altogether or find alternate water sources to operate.  Even with the increase, the per gallon cost is still quite low, at around 3 cents per gallon.

Still, it would seem we’ve painted ourselves into a very dark corner where water and sewer system finances are concerned.  Water rates are now reaching punitive levels.  Can they really be raised by double-digit percentages every time the well starts to run dry?  Mom and dad will again be robbing Peter to pay Paul for the one resource our homes cannot live without.  What other expenses in your home will you cut back on to pay the extra tab on water?